Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Occupations and Environmental Areas at Risk in Washington State

The high levels of asbestos within the state of Washington have made it No. 10 in the nation for asbestos-related deaths. More than 1,000 mesothelioma and asbestosis patients passed away between 1999 and 2008.

These illnesses are primarily caused by two different types of asbestos exposure, both of which are common in Washington:
  • Occupational exposure risks (in asbestos-contaminated jobsites) 
  •  Environmental exposure risks (in naturally occurring asbestos deposits)
While asbestos is no longer mined from the environment or heavily relied on in Washington’s industrial jobsites, asbestos threats do still remain in the state.

Naturally Occurring Asbestos in Washington
Washington’s mountainous soil is rich in naturally occurring asbestos. The state was once home to two major amphibole asbestos mines:
  • Lyman Deposit (Skagit County) 
  •  Alta Lake Mine (Okanogan County)
Neither of these mines is still in operation, but asbestos fibers still remain in the mines and around the sites.

Asbestos was also prevalent in the earth near Swift Creek and the Sumas River. An asbestos quarry was briefly opened in the Whatcom County area, and landslides in the area threatened to wash some of the remaining asbestos into the bodies of water that surround it. The EPA began monitoring the asbestos content in the water in response to the environmental hazard.

When exploring any part of the state where naturally occurring asbestos may be present, residents should avoid handling any rock deposits that may be laced with the carcinogenic fibers. Environmental asbestos exposure risks can also be reduced by staying on paved paths when hiking or biking through natural parks.

Asbestos-Contaminated Jobsites in Washington
Washington’s industrial jobsites are also potential sources of asbestos exposure. Large companies including Lockheed Martin and Kaiser Aluminum have exposed employees at their Washington jobsites to asbestos. Other Washington-based employers with known asbestos threats at their facilities include Alcoa Aluminum, Reynolds Metal and UNOCAL Chemical.

Occupations that were at the highest risk for asbestos exposure include:
·         Construction workers
·         Plumbers
·         Steelworkers
·         Automobile mechanics

The shipbuilding industry in coastal Washington was a major industry in Washington, and many workers were exposed to asbestos while constructing private and government vessels. Tacoma Dry Dock Shipyard, Duwamish Shipyard and Bremerton Puget Sound Naval Shipyard were among the largest shipyards that posed an asbestos threat to employees.

While Washington’s jobsites are now regulated by the Washington State Department of Health, thousands of people employed before the 1980s were exposed to asbestos at work. Unfortunately, many of these workers brought asbestos fibers home on their work clothing. 

Author bio: Faith Franz is a writer for the Mesothelioma Center. She combines her interests in whole-body health and medical research to educate the mesothelioma community about the newest developments in cancer care.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thank you for taking the time to provide your comment on this topic. We welcome comments on your experiences in safety & health, as well as additional safety ideas and resources. Please remember to keep it clean and be respectful of others. We reserve the right not to include comments that do not pertain to the posting.